On the heels of his new album, synthwave musician PatternShift spoke about his relationship with the genre, how its do-it-yourself nature is inspiring musicians, and his emotional connection to Sci-Fi as part of a DEEPLESS interview.
The PatternShift project is the work of a software engineer by the name of Ben Kamphaus, who previously left his professional music ambitions behind after settling down to a fruitful life.
Nowadays, he makes science fiction-inspired synthwave music in his spare time. During our conversation, he mentioned that his recent pursuits are the result of a ‘soundtrack’ that accompanies his life, and his goal of finding new ways to connect with his son.
PatternShift tells a story of space exploration in his new album Vaskania Prime
Last week marked PatternShift’s most significant step under the moniker to date. He released his ambitious full-length album titled Vaskania Prime on all major streaming platforms on October 19th. The album combines 11 instrumental tracks and some supplementary narrative text to a tell story, or as he explains it, at least create the feeling of one.
“It’s something that’s been bouncing in my head for a while,” said PatternShift, speaking on the album’s cohesive theme.
I always knew when I was going to do the first big full-length album I wanted it to be an original story and not a ‘setting-to’ or ‘inspired-by’ type of thing.”
While the album does draw clear inspiration from the artist’s love of science fiction novels, Vaskania Prime paints its own setting revolving around the colonization of a fictional planet. Staying true to what he loves about the genre, PatternShift explained that he wanted the album to create a feeling that humanizes the distant future.
“I feel [themes in science fiction] should be more resonant than they actually are,” he said. “There’s some sort of biological limitation to how we process the actual implications of everything that’s going on, that makes things that are very abstract not as emotionally real as they should be.”
To me, a big part of the power of well written science fiction is to take sociological and technological turmoil and humanize the implications of it in a story form.”
On his website, PatternShift has a small explanatory blurb for each song on his new album. He explained that these aim to give context to the world around the album, although the music can still stand on its own.
“What I want to do with this combination of Sci-Fi musicality is work from the abstraction to something that is more emotionally resonant,” he said. “I almost wanted the detached technical writing aspect of what’s going on to be a juxtaposition to the feeling that I wanted to evoke in the music.”
Sending emotional signals to your brain through music
Music was a big part of my life for a while, it didn’t become a part of anything that I did professionally. I would write ideas here and there and save recordings of things I came up with, but I never really had an idea of doing it seriously again.”
What made PatternShift set out to create under his new title was his discovery that music can be a gateway for people with autism to channel intense emotion and connect to the world.
“My oldest son was diagnosed with autism and we were going through therapies and I was reading some different books that all made this very similar point: people who are autistic have an easier time communicating or encoding and decoding emotional states or interacting socially when music is involved,” said PatternShift.
A lot of it is almost a bypass of the symbolic logic stuff that we do with language, and a direct wiring into this animal sound mechanism in the brain of directly receiving, encoding, and decoding emotional states.”
“If that’s going to be a thing for my son possibly, I should really pull out some of this stuff and get good at music again and be able to participate, encourage, or help him grow skills there.”
How synthwave represents a changing tide and gives artists independence
Long before ‘PatternShift’ came into existence, the man behind the moniker said he used to make indie rock back in his late teens and early 20s – although he assured me that most of those tapes are long lost.
At that time, he found himself clashing with his bandmates, who drew from a separate set of inspirations than he did. Additionally, as a result of his desire to start a band, he never committed to mastering a single instrument, but got proficient with several.
There was always a bit of tension in trying to dial-in what our sound was going to be. We found some common ground and made a few songs that way, but it wasn’t like now where it is so easy to get something all the way through to completion in an audio workstation and push it out to distributors.”
Cut to around fifteen years later, PatternShift found himself slowly adding synthwave tracks to his everyday playlist, and even conceptualizing a science fiction-inspired soundtrack to accompany his daily routine.
My full album Vaskania Prime is out now! Go on a #scifi #synthwave journey outside the solar system as humanity reaches for the stars! Full streaming info at: https://t.co/QlthPjh12f pic.twitter.com/UkqElrdXCd
— 𝙿𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚗𝚂𝚑𝚒𝚏𝚝 (@pattern_shift) October 19, 2018
He explained that in the modern day, it’s much easier for musicians to learn and experiment with different sounds, and that there are less limitations than ever for people to make music on their own.
“I basically feel like now there are definitely things that [professional studio engineers] can do better than me, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a case of like, everything’s completely out of reach,” he said. “I figured I could do all this in the box, occasionally adding some guitar work or something. It was something that seemed feasible and really interesting to me.”
The voyage ahead
“I could see there were other people interested in the soundtrack type stuff,” said PatternShift, elaborating on his motivations.
I want to make [music] that’s authentically what I’m about, and I want to do it to a higher level of ability that I think I’m capable of, and see if there are others out there that are like ‘yeah that resonates with me.’”
With his first album now released, PatternShift said he isn’t sure if he’ll be sticking with the universe he’s created with any permanence, but fans can expect to hear more from the world of Vaskania Prime in upcoming singles.
His preferred way for you to listen to the album is on his website PatternShiftSynth, where you can read the story and listen to the tracks directly.